Although it isn’t often that conservatives and Fox News come to the defense of a liberal journalist, I come not to congratulate them, but to condemn them.
Award-winning liberal journalist Juan Williams was fired by NPR on October 20 for politically incorrect remarks he made about Muslims on The O’Reilly Factor. Fox News then granted him a $2 million, three-year contract.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants Congress to investigate NPR for censorship and calls for “consider cutting off its public funding.”
NPR is “promoting a one-sided liberal agenda,” says Republican Senator Jim DeMint. He plans to introduce legislation stripping NPR of its federal funding.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he will no longer accept interview requests from NPR. He is likewise calling for cuts in NPR’s federal funding, as is conservative darling Sarah Palin.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor says the firing of Williams undermines free speech. He wants to include NPR’s federal funding in a contest that lets Americans vote on programs for Republicans to cut from the budget.
The right-wing reaction to the firing of Williams by NPR shows the true nature of conservatives. As Jacob Hornberger recently wrote: “Conservatives have come to accept the basic principles of the welfare state and have chosen to devote their lives, resources, and efforts to reforming it and improving it with what they call ‘market-oriented’ reforms.”
NPR has been around since 1970. Yet, we rarely hear calls from conservatives or Republicans to eliminate its public funding unless its “liberal bias” becomes particularly egregious. Republicans under Gingrich controlled the Congress during the last six years of Clinton’s presidency. Why didn’t they drastically slash the funding of NPR then? During the Bush presidency, Republicans controlled the House for six years and the Senate for over four years. Why wasn’t NPR’s budget eliminated then?
It is only when some government agency or program does something that conservatives and Republicans don’t like that they ever talk about cutting its budget or eliminating it. Does House Republican whip Cantor object to “free-speech zones” where critics of the president are relegated? Of course he doesn’t, at least not when the president is George W. Bush or another Republican.
NPR is a creation of LBJ’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The CPB gives funds to local public radio stations that in turn give money to NPR for the right to receive programming. Eight of the nine current members of the board of the CPB were appointed by President Bush. Why did Bush bother to make the appointments? The CPB budget for fiscal year 2009 (Bush’s last budget) was $400 million. Why did Bush sign any legislation appropriating funds for the CPB?
Something similar to the NPR flap happened during the early 1990s regarding the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) funding what conservatives charged was blasphemous and pornographic art. Although the budget of the NEA was cut to just under $100 million in 1996, its budget for fiscal year 2009 (again, Bush’s last budget) was up to $155 million.
Conservatives miss the real issue here. The real issue is not censorship by NPR. The real issue is not NPR’s liberal bias. The real issue is not how much of NPR’s budget is funded with tax money. The real issue is not whether NPR — or the CPB or the NEA — is funded with tax money at all.
The real issue is whether the federal government has any business forming a network of radio and television stations, allocating the broadcast spectrum, licensing the stations, regulating communications via the Federal Communications Commission, and setting up quasi-private non-profit corporations like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The real issue is whether we should have a nanny, regulatory, interventionist state.
Statists come in two varieties: left and right, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. Only libertarians see the real issues, and only libertarians have real solutions, ones based on genuine principles of liberty.